Controversial political commentator Eric Zemmour joined the 2022 presidential race by confirming his candidacy in a Youtube video yesterday (November 30).
However, to run, candidates must have the support of 500 elected officials, which could be a challenge for Zemmour because of his controversial views.
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The 63-year-old presents himself as a savior of what he says France traditionally represents, and opposes foreign influences on the country, mainly Islamic influences.
He is currently the subject of a lawsuit for incitement to racial hatred, following comments he made about unaccompanied migrant children during a debate in September 2020 on CNews.
During the show, he said unaccompanied migrant children had “no reason to be here: they’re thieves, they’re killers, they’re rapists, that’s all they do.” are doing, they should be fired ”, comments the French regulator of audio-visual, the Superior council of audio-visual imposed a fine of 200 000 € to CNews.
Mr. Zemmour has been sentenced twice for incitement to racial hatred in the past.
It is this type of controversy that can make collecting 500 signatures of elected officials a challenge for the candidate.
Why 500 signatures?
The system began in 1962 under President Charles de Gaulle, with the intention of limiting the number of marginal candidates. At the time, applicants only needed 100 contributors. This number was increased to 500 in 1976.
These 500 signatures, called sponsorships in French, must come from officials from at least 30 different departments, including at most one tenth from the same department.
All candidates have until six weeks before the first ballot at the latest, which means they need the 500 names by March 16, 2022.
In the last elections in 2017, 42,000 elected officials had the right to present a candidate for the presidential election. However, only 14,296 signatures were given. This number has steadily declined over time.
For the last presidential elections in France in 2017, 11 candidates successfully collected 500 signatures. It was out of a total of 61 names.
François Fillon, candidate of the Republicans (LR), received the most signatures, with 3,635.
Benoît Hamon, who represented the Socialist Party, came second with 2,039 signatures. Emmanuel Macron received 1829 and Jean-Luc Mélenchon (La France Insoumise) received 805.
Marine Le Pen (National Rally), who faced Emmanuel Macron in the second round of the 2017 elections, received 627.
You can learn more about the system sponsorships in our article here: France’s 2022 presidential candidates try to find 500 backers
Why could Zemmour wrestle?
Zemmour’s popularity with the public has been steadily declining since mid-November, according to political polls.
In the most recent survey conducted by Harris Interactive published yesterday (ahead of Mr Zemmour’s video announcing his candidacy), 13% of those polled said they would vote for him.
That’s between three and four percentage points lower than a similar poll released last week, and five to six percentage points lower than in mid-November.
This poll places Zemmour behind the National Rally candidate Marine Le Pen, with 19% to 20% declaring their intention to vote for her, and the current President Emmanuel Macron, who received the support of 23% of those questioned.
Mr. Zemmour also found himself behind Xavier Bertrand of the Republicans, who was supported by 14% of the people. The Republicans will vote their presidential candidate this week, Mr. Bertrand facing Michel Barnier, Valérie Pécresse, Eric Ciotti and Philippe Juvin.
Even with polls suggesting his support is waning, Zemmour remains popular among much of the public. But elected officials pose a different problem.
The agents authorized to sign are deputies, senators, representatives of the European Parliament, mayors and presidents of local authorities, councilors from Paris and the Metropolis of Lyon, as well as departmental and regional councilors.
If they choose to support a presidential candidate, the information is made public, which could work against Mr. Zemmour because of his controversial views.
The transparency of the system could explain why only 34% of elected officials with signing rights chose to do so in the run-up to the 2017 elections.
A good example of a popular candidate struggling to get enough signatures is Ms Le Pen. Even though she made it to the second round of the presidential election to face Mr Macron in 2017, she only managed to get 627 signatures.
She has also been established in politics for much longer than Mr. Zemmour, who has so far not been a representative in any capacity, either at the local or national level. This means he is less likely to have ties to elected officials than Ms Le Pen.
A support group for Mr. Zemmour called Les Amis d’Éric Zemmour (the friends of Eric Zemmour), says around 200 officials have already declared their support for Mr. Zemmour, the right-wing CNEWS news channel reported. .
Some mayors have already officially declared their support, such as Loup Bommier, mayor of Gurgy-le-Château (Côte d’Or), or Spike Groen, LR mayor of Saint-Gilles (Indre).
However, it remains to be seen whether Mr Zemmour will be able to convince several hundred more to publicly support him for the presidency before March 16 next year.
The Royal Institution cancels the rental of the Éric Zemmour room for an event in London
The use by the far-right polemicist Eric Zemmour of the photo of the condemned Queen gun